MR. AFRAH: Mr. Blake, Mohamed Afrah from TV Maldives. Good to talk to you after some time.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to join you.
MR. AFRAH: My first question is, what is the stand of the U.S. government regarding the situation in Maldives?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well first, the U.S. attaches great importance to our friendly relations with Maldives, a democratic, moderate and Muslim nation. We welcome the efforts that all sides are making to find a peaceful way forward in the Maldives, and we also welcome the ongoing dialogue among Maldivians regarding the role of a unity government in addressing issues of common interest, including a democratization process that would create the conditions for potential early elections. We continue to urge all parties to work together to enact needed reforms. And we particularly stress that now is the time for peaceful, constructive dialogue, and for everyone to prioritize the best interests of the country and the safety of the Maldivian people, and not allow violence to further complicate the situation.
MR. AFRAH: So, what would you say – does the United States view the current government as legitimate?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: We continue to believe that there are outstanding questions regarding the transfer of power that took place on February 7th. The United States believes that an independent investigation is the best way to determine what actually happened and reach a conclusion that will allow Maldivians to move forward with a unity government. So, we very much welcome the appointment of a Maldivian National Inquiry Commission, and again, we hope that Commission can move forward expeditiously to conduct its investigation and tell the Maldivian people of its findings.
MR. AFRAH: Can we expect any U.S. participation in the dialogue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well again, I think it is really up for the Maldivians to conduct a dialogue among themselves. As you know, I was there about two weeks ago, and we’re always happy to help in any way we can to encourage the parties to work together. But again, I think it is incumbent right now on all the leaders of the parties to try to forge an agreement and again, to keep the best interests of the people and country in mind, and not of their narrow, partisan interests.
MR. AFRAH: I ask this question because India is participating as a facilitator of the talks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes, I know Foreign Secretary Mathai was there and I know India is trying to play a constructive role. And again, we ourselves played a similar role when I was there two weeks ago. But again, I hope all the parties can come together and try to work through these difficult issues and do so in a peaceful and constructive manner.
MR. AFRAH: And would you respond to the statement about [inaudible] political classes here?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I prefer not to get into parsing statements by individual people. I’d just go back to say that the way forward, we think, is for all the parties to work together: to agree on possible amendments to the constitution, on a possible unity government, and on possible early elections. And I would say as someone who has worked as a friend of the Maldives for many, many years, your country has worked through much more difficult challenges in the past. So again, I hope that party leaders can prioritize the interests of the country and the people, and reach a rapid agreement so that the country can move forward.
MR. AFRAH: All right, thank you very much for your time, and I hope that you will come to the Maldives again.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I hope so, too. Thank you so much.
Drafted: E Horne SCA/Press
Cleared: A/S Blake (ok)